The 2018 Overwatch World Cup will begin this weekend with the first round of group stages in Incheon, South Korea. Six of the 24 qualifying countries will compete in the first round-robin tournament to determine which two will move on to compete at BlizzCon in November. Which team will likely join the favorite South Korean defenders? Read on for features on each team, players to watch for, and predictions.
Currently ranked 18th out of the 20 countries that qualified for competition, Chinese Taipei, as the nation of Taiwan is referred to in international competition, has a recorded Skill Rating of 4,018. The top 20 countries – not including the four host countries of France, Thailand, United States, and South Korea that were automatically entered – qualified based on the average SR of the top 150 accounts in the nation. Last year’s World Cup was a strong performance for Chinese Taipei. Having gone 2-1 in round robin group stages in Anaheim, they were ultimately defeated 0-3 by the United Kingdom, placing in the top 16.
As the format of this year’s World Cup has been altered so that only two nations will come out of the group stages, Chinese Taipei will have to rely on their captain Kao “Kant” Wei-Teng, who allegedly made 15 Overwatch accounts to ensure qualification. A strong flex player, Kant is known as “The King of Roadhog”, but also plays DPS Heroes such as Tracer and Widowmaker.
Also, keep an eye out for Lin “ShaiuLin” Keng-Yu, a DPS player for Hong Kong Attitude in Contenders, whose synergy with fellow teammates Chao-Hua “ATing” Chen and Jing-Han “TenTen” Liao could help carry Chinese Taipei to victory.
Chinese Taipei’s first match will be against defending champions South Korea on August 16, at 9:45 PM PDT.
A team entirely composed of experienced Overwatch League players, Finland is rated 5th out of the 20 nations with an average SR of 4,257. Stars Timo “Taimou” Kettunen, Joonas “zappis” Alakurtti, and Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin have represented their home country for every World Cup, placing 4th in the inaugural competition. However, Finland has much to prove after last year’s difficult showing, where after a 4-0 loss to Spain and a 2-2 tie with Japan, the team failed to continue onto the round of 16.
Although many viewers will be familiar with the impressive DPS play of Taimou and LiNkzr, the players to watch could very much be the unsung heroes of many teams – the supports. Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni and Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara helped lead the Los Angeles Gladiators to the playoffs with their calm leadership and flexible hero choices – who can forget Shaz’ showing on Tracer on Horizon Lunar Colony!
In the words of Jacob “Jake” Lyon, a player for the Houston Outlaws and color caster for the World Cup, “BigGoose has also been impressive as one of the few full-time Lúcio players to retain his tenacity and aggressiveness on that character while also rarely stepping out of position on Mercy”.
These two will be hoping to enable their team in their first match against Hong Kong on August 16, at 11:30 PM PDT.
Hong Kong has had one of the more difficult histories at the Overwatch World Cup. Although its current ranking is 15th with an average SR of 4,052, technically higher than Chinese Taipei’s, Hong Kong has never made it past a group stage or even won a match. In 2016, the team was swept 0-2 against both Thailand and Japan in the Asia-Pacific Qualifier, whereas in 2017, Hong Kong lost to Norway 1-3 and was swept by China. If Hong Kong’s performance in Team Australia’s Outback Showdown earlier this month is to be trusted, their chances of moving forward are slim.
Although they were swept by Australia 0-4, two standouts were DPS specialist Chi-Yeung “Moowe” Yip and support player Kin-Long “ManGoJai” Wong, teammates on Hong Kong Attitude. Both World Cup veterans from 2017, ManGoJai’s presence on Lucio stabilized attacks in the largely one-sided matchup. He is a flexible support, often swapping between Zenyatta, Moira, and even Ana while competing in Contenders.
Moowe has an equally broad hero pool. While he plays a strong Tracer, prepare to see Moowe thrive as Zarya when Hong Kong uses their favored triple support, triple tank GOATS composition.
They will be playing for their first World Cup win on August 16, 8:00 PM PDT against Russia.
The 10th ranked Japan with an average SR of 4,156 is looking to reprise its successful 2017 exit from the group stages this year. While in the inaugural tournament, Japan fell to Thailand similarly to Hong Kong, in last year’s tournament this team was the champions of Group D consisting of Spain, Finland, and Vietnam with a 2-0 record. Unfortunately, they fell to Australia 2-3 in the round of 16, with one of the more even matchups in the entire tournament.
This year’s new format may prove difficult for Japan, however. With only two spots available to qualify for Blizzcon in each group, Japan must beat proven powerhouses like Russia and Finland to have a chance to move on.
Two veteran players shone in Japan’s 2017 run are DPS player Sean Taiyo “ta1yo” Henderson and support Takahiro “CLAIRE” Watanabe. They bring along their teammates from the CYCLOPS Contenders team, which as Blizzard’s Amelia Savery highlights, finished “first in Season 2 of Pacific’s Open Division, and placed third in Trials to be promoted into Contenders… As of publication, they are undefeated in a league that features five all-Korean teams, which is nothing to sneeze at”.
Watch for CLAIRE and ta1yo’s leadership to potentially lead to upsets during this group stage, with Japan’s first match against Chinese Taipei on August 17th, 9:45 PM PDT.
Team Russia is heading into this group stage with a specific competitor in their sights. Being the 8th ranked team with an average SR of 4,219, Russia has been knocked out of the World Cup by South Korea in both previous tournaments. The 2016 World Cup saw Russia eliminating both France and Finland to meet South Korea in the grand finals, only to get swept 0-4. The following year, this team once again made it through the group stage, but history repeated itself as Russia was swept by South Korea in the round of 16.
George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha has been a consistent presence on every single World Cup team, and will likely want to rewrite the repetitive Russia vs. South Korea narrative. A fan favorite DPS player on the Philadelphia Fusion, ShaDowBurn has built a reputation as a reliable and patient attacker, and one of the best Genjis in the world. Our own Josh Armstrong’s piece provides excellent analysis of ShaDowBurn’s use of the Dragonblade. Another player familiar to Overwatch League fans is Stanislav “Mistakes” Danilov, a DPS player for the Boston Uprising. Mistakes’ large Hero pool and ability to complement his DPS partner’s style as shown in his flexibility in the Overwatch League will be vital for Russia’s success.
Their first match will be August 16th, at 8:00 PM PDT against Hong Kong.
The team that needs no introduction, Team South Korea is the obvious favorite to win their third Overwatch World Cup in a row. This nation automatically qualified due to their host status, but has one of the highest average SRs with 4,479. With a roster almost entirely consisting of the New York Excelsior’s best, it would be shocking if this South Korea does not at the very least make it back into the finals. The inaugural World Cup established South Korea’s dominance as they swept every single opponent they faced. While this feat was not repeated in 2017, the favorites once again dominated, beating Canada in the finals 4-1.
It is nearly impossible to handpick a couple of players to watch, as this team is stacked with superstars. However, one must keep an eye on the Overwatch League’s MVP, Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang. Teammate and captain Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park told Blizzard’s Emerald Gao “He was ranked number one a lot, and his Ana was said to be better than Ryujehong, so when he came it was just like, oh wow, we got the best healer in the world.” Tank main Pan-seung “Fate” Koo, of the Los Angeles Valiant, will also be a player to focus on. While he predominantly plays Main Tank in the Overwatch League, prepare to see Wrecking Ball played to his full potential when Fate is competing.
South Korea’s first match will be against Chinese Taipei on August 16th, at 9:45 PM PDT.
Who Will Qualify for BlizzCon?
This is one of the most viciously competitive groups in the World Cup, with South Korea, Finland, Russia, and even Japan having a chance to compete at BlizzCon. While South Korea is almost guaranteed to win this entire group, the battle for second place will be cutthroat.
Ultimately, this author predicts that Russia will join South Korea in the group stage, upsetting the popular Finnish national team. With much to prove, star DPS talent, and tanks and supports from the Contenders League that already have synergy and experience with one another, ShaDowBurn will lead his team to BlizzCon.